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Chickasha group home for girls sees turnaround

The exterior of Sequoyah Enterprises Inc.'s group home for girls in Chickasha, Okla. [Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman]

The exterior of Sequoyah Enterprises Inc.'s group home for girls in Chickasha, Okla. [Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman]

CHICKASHA — The owner of Sequoyah Enterprises Inc. says the private company that operates several Oklahoma homes for troubled youth and disabled adults has turned things around at its Chickasha home for teenage girls.

The Chickasha home has not had any recent calls to police and has not had to use restraints on residents in about 90 days, said Phil Rhoades, owner of the facility.

That's a marked improvement from Jan. 1, 2015, through March 26, 2017, when police were called to the home 371 times, according to police records. The calls included 195 for children leaving without permission, 38 for help with a "juvenile out of control" and 28 for assaults.

Rhoades measures improvement not just in fewer problems, but also changed lives.

The 16-bed Chickasha home is situated in a quiet residential neighborhood and ringed by a tall, black metal fence. Most of the furniture has seen better days, but the building is bright and clean and the halls are covered with colorful murals and photo collages of the girls who live there.

When a new girl arrives at the home, she is allowed to choose the color of her bedroom from about seven shades of pastel paint, incuding pink, lavender and yellow. Through good behavior, the girls can earn privileges, such as having small pets. There are also outings for residents to places like White Water Bay water park in Oklahoma City.

One resident's small pet rodent, named Angela, roamed the halls in a plastic exercise ball on a recent weekday morning.

Angela's owner, a 14-year-old girl who has resided at the Chickasha group home for about six months, said she loves living there. Her mother is deceased. Her father had his parental rights terminated.

Sequoyah Enterprises asked that The Oklahoman not to use the girl's name or photograph any residents of the home in keeping with DHS policy.

When the girl first arrived at the group home a few days before Christmas, her behavior was disruptive and violent at times.

"I smashed out all the windows of a car and broke stuff a lot," the girl said. "I know now that I don't want my life to be that way and they gave me a chance to turn it around. It's like a regular home here."

Since arriving here, she's getting good grades and has had no recent violent outbursts. She hopes to eventually be allowed to move in with her grandmother.

In 2016, DHS found four substantiated cases of abuse at Sequoyah Enterprises' Chickasha home, up from two substantiated cases in 2015.

The company has since worked to improve the Chickasha home, Rhoades said. Many of the issues arose during the transition to a new behavior management program required by DHS, he said.

In April, DHS issued a 30-day notice to Sequoyah Enterprises' Chickasha group home after issues arose over the company's noncompliance with its state contract, said Jami Ledoux, DHS director of child welfare services. If a contractor fails to meet the standards of care required by the state, DHS can terminate the contract or impose financial penalties.

"With Sequoyah, specifically, we have seen them be responsive when we have identified what we are asking them to do," Ledoux said.

DHS also has given the group home here heightened monitoring in order to ensure the teenage girls there are receiving good care, she said.

The notice to comply has since expired and DHS has decided not to terminate its contract with Sequoyah Enterprises in Chickasha, said Debra Martin, a spokeswoman for DHS.

"We believe enough progress has been made that we will continue the relationship and continue to closely monitor Sequoyah to ensure the changes are sustained," Martin said in an email.

Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›